Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

On February 15~16 every year for some 450 years, the town of Yokote in Southeastern Akita Prefecture transforms into a mystical world of snow and light.

Akita receives an incredible amount of snow-fall each winter, so the locals are well accustomed to living in the harsh conditions of ‘snow country’. The Yokote Kamakura (or ‘snow-house’/igloo) festival gives visitors the chance to experience the unique folk-culture of the area first-hand.

Photo credit: Nguyen Chi Long

From late January to the beginning of the festival, locals come together to build around 100 kamakura! As you might imagine, there is plenty of snow to go around. The larger-size kamakura are made from about 1.5m x 2m mounds of compacted snow that are hollowed out to create shelters big enough to house 4-6 people.  But these are not your average shelters! At night-time, the kamakura are lit from within by candlelight, illuminating an altar and shrine to the deity of water; the deity to whom locals will pray for good health, safety and an abundant harvest.

As festival goers pass through the rows of shining kamakura, local school-children at the entrances will call out to them ‘はいってたんせ~!甘酒あがってたんせ~!’ inviting them to come inside and enjoy some sweet ‘Amazake’ (a non-alcholic beverage made from rice) and mochi rice-cake, in exchange for a prayer to the deity inside. It is a rare chance for some quality interaction with the locals as you bond over the cold and your warm snacks!

Photo credit: Nguyen Chi Long

Throughout the town, you will find winding rows of miniature kamakura and lanterns by the Yokote river, Yokote station and around the castle grounds (yes, there is also a castle!), creating an incredibly romantic and fantastical atmosphere. Of course, there are also plenty of festival food stalls about to keep you warm with some delicious local treats, including the local favourite Yokote yakisoba. At Doro-koen Park, you can also observe how the kamakura are made and, if you’re lucky, you may have the chance to try it out for yourself! There is also the Kamakurakan Hall which houses some kamakura all year round in a special area maintained at about -10 degrees celsius! So, I guess if you can’t make it this winter, you can still get a small taste of the festival in summer!

Photo credit: Nguyen Chi Long

Photo credit: Nguyen Chi Long

If you’re looking for a unique way to spend your winter in Tohoku, this is definitely an event to add to you list! Just don’t forget to dress warmly (snow shoes/boots highly recommended!!) and, of course, bring your camera for some great shots with your companions and new local friends!

Access & Info

When: Thursday, February 15 ~ Friday February 16

Time: 18:00 ~ 21:00

Event Homepage (mostly Japanese): http://www.yokotekamakura.com/01_event/04_winter/kamakura_kaisai.html

Venue: Doro-koen Park (in front of the City Hall)


From Tokyo/Sendai, take the Akita Shinkansen to Omagari Station, change to the local JR Ou line to Yokote Station. From here there should be event shuttle buses running to the main venue.

A useful website for searching for train times/routes can be found here: http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

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